Every Dog Needs Socialization
Dogs are social animals and like to be part of a structured social group. In the wild, their pack provides this purpose, but in the domesticated world, this consists of the humans they live with – you and your family – and other animals that live in your home. Your puppy or dog learns quite quickly where they fit into the pecking order of the social group.
The pecking order is altered when another pet is added to the mix, or when someone new comes to live in the home. The same thing happens outside of the home – for example, at dog parks or daycare. In these instances, a new hierarchy is established when dogs first meet, establishing a pecking order for the group.
To the average pet parent or minder, these structures might not seem like a big deal… but it is to your dog! It has the potential to cause disruption as they jockey for their position. It could mean fights break out, and potentially even cause psychological damage to your otherwise friendly dog.
Most dogs can cope in groups, and many groups function without issues (provided that no other dogs are added to alter the dynamic). Many humans who observe these social groups fail to see the damage it can do to fearful or shy dogs, however – trauma that leads the dog to become aggressive.
The Right Type of Socialization
At Bark Busters, we believe that mature, fully grown dogs cope better during scary encounters with other dogs than young, impressionable puppies do. Our recommendation for stress-free socialization is to introduce your dog or puppy only to the right type of dogs and people.
Make sure your puppy only meets other dogs that have been vaccinated to prevent exposure to Parvo or disease. Puppies or grown dogs should ideally only be exposed to dogs that possess a low energy temperament, and that are of equal size or similar personality types, as a high energy dog might frighten an inexperienced puppy.
8 Tips Guests Should Follow When Meeting Your Dog
Likewise, when you first introduce your puppy or dog to strangers, be sure that they understand how their actions will influence your dog’s behavior. Some general tips for guests to follow include:
- Don’t squeal with delight.
- Don’t rush at the dog. Remain calm and speak softly and sweetly.
- Allow the dog or puppy to approach and sniff you. Be mindful that a sniff or approach does not mean the puppy or dog wants to be touched – the dog needs to come close to identify your scent.
- Do not reach out to touch or pet the puppy or dog. Let them make the first move.
- Do not try to pick up the puppy or dog.
- Drop a treat and stay calm.
- If the puppy or dog moves away, leave them alone – they might be shy and need time to accept strangers.
Remember, not all dogs are party animals. Human guests should NEVER force their presence on any dog.
We recommend never taking a young puppy to a dog park.
Some dogs and puppies do cope well with dog parks and daycare; they are generally confident, outgoing personality types. But the average dog owner does not possess the skills to determine if their dog or puppy has this kind of personality. Regardless, pups are impressionable – they won’t forget the feeling of vulnerability when another dog or larger pup stands over them or dominates them.
Bark Busters’ extensive research has shown that incorrect types of early socialization with puppies or adolescent dogs will cause dogs to become aggressive towards other dogs when they mature. Aggression is often not noticeable immediately, as issues created early on in your dog’s life usually surface once they reach maturity.
Some humans view dog park antics as funny and entertaining, but it can be likened to children encountering bullies at the playground. It’s never fun for the victims. If your dog is dog aggressive, try to recall which event or venue in the past might have influenced this antagonistic behavior towards other dogs.
Multi-dog households often experience situations where dogs that previously cohabited well together begin to squabble or engage in full-on fights. We refer to this as sibling rivalry, even if the dogs might not be blood-related – for all intents and purposes, dogs that live together are adoptive siblings.
At Bark Busters, we are extremely experienced at solving this serious behavioral issue and prefer to be notified as early as possible. It is best for pet owners to seek advice the first time they witness a minor squabble between two dogs, as this can be an early sign of what might follow. We look to identify the root cause of this behavior and to help you understand what is required to find harmony again in the household.
Our research and experience show that sibling rivalry relates to another imbalance in the household. Maybe one dog is being shown preferential treatment over the other dog(s); they may appear sweet and loving, for example, and because of their disposition, humans take their side over their canine siblings in any dispute. Other dogs spot this favoritism immediately.
Signs Your Dog Might Have Social Issues
Issues with other dogs don’t develop overnight. Even if they appear to come from nowhere, it’s a safe bet there are root causes somewhere in your dog’s past. A dog typically won’t do much when it’s a puppy, but events can stack up and lead to surprising reactions. Some early signs your dog has some social issues are:
- They used to be happy to go everywhere with you but are now reluctant to leave their home.
- They bark or try to move away when they see another dog.
- They begin to snap at other dogs at daycare or the dog park.
- They used to romp and play, but now take themselves away from groups or hide under your chair.
- They begin to attack some dogs.
If you ticked one or two boxes from the above list, don’t despair – Bark Busters is here to help! Contact your local trainer today to learn more about how we can identify and address issues with individualized training, built on a foundation of love and respect.